Calling a politician out for being a hypocrite is so easy, there’s just no sport in it. It’s almost redundant — as Martin Sheen’s character famously said in “Apocalypse Now” — like giving out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.
But once in a great while, some propped-up empty suit of a candidate goes so far over the hypocrisy line that you just have to say something, out of a sense of sheer decency. Your intelligence can only take a finite number of insults, after all.
Thus is the case this week with presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the Republican Party who backs him and the plight of working women.
But, back to the beginning. It all started last week when someone asked Romney about the struggles of working women, and he deferred to his wife, Ann, saying he’s talked to her, and she gave him insight and practical advice.
That tidbit was seized upon by Democratic pundits, whose eyebrow-raising bemusement was voiced by strategist Hilary Rosen, who questioned Mrs. Romney’s bona fides on the subject, saying, “Ann Romney never worked a day in her life.”
Rosen’s point, that the born-rich, married-rich and still-filthy-rich Ann Romney is a poor choice of advisor on the day-to-day tribulations of working moms, was lost in the resulting brouhaha, as the GOP launched into full outrage mode, saying that President Obama, who somehow became an extension of Hilary Rosen, has no respect for women who work inside the home.
“I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys,” Ann Romney tweeted huffily. “Believe me, it was hard work.”
Yes, raising children, especially five boys, is a handful for any mom. Most mothers, though, don’t have the advantages Mrs. Romney enjoyed — specifically, having a small army of maids, nannies, an au pair, housekeepers, cooks and gardeners to do the hard work for them.
Raising five boys was such hard work, Ann Romney hardly found time to ride her dressage horses or attend yachting classes.
Think of all the hard working yet struggling moms you know. Any of them own dressage horses, or even have the slightest idea what dressage is? Probably not. They’re too busy washing and ironing clothes, cleaning the house, helping with homework, paying the bills and stretching the meager grocery budget as far as it can go.
Mitt, God bless him, waded into the fray with this tidbit, “All moms are working moms.” It’s a nice sound bite, and certainly applies to the vast majority of moms in America, but not necessarily the ones who take weekly yachting classes.
Just a few weeks ago, this same Mitt Romney defended the welfare-to-work program he signed into law as Massachusetts’s governor by saying low-income moms on the public dole “need to learn the dignity of work.”
Wait a minute, you say. If poor moms need to learn the dignity of work outside the home, how come rich moms don’t? Don’t they deserve the same dignity, or could it be that the work ethic of the wealthy should remain unquestioned, while that of the working poor should be attacked at every turn?
The worst of it is that the whole supposed controversy was completely made up, and played like a violin by the GOP. Ann Romney admitted as much herself, when she giddily described Rosen’s comments as “an early birthday gift” in an interview with ABC News.
See, the Republicans know full well they’re anywhere from 16 to 20 points down among women voters, according to recent polls. This, by the way, is entirely their own fault.
From criminally invasive abortion requirements, to their opposition to the Family Medical and Leave Act, to the asinine attempt to limit women’s access to birth control, to Romney’s own refusal to support the Ledbetter Act, which ensures women equal pay for equal work, the GOP record on women’s issues has come into sharp focus in recent months.
But rather than admit their own policies are hurting them with the single largest voting bloc, they’ve tried to somehow shift the woman-hater label onto Obama — which is ridiculous on its face. Obama, who elevated two women to the Supreme Court, has long been a champion of women’s rights. In fact, the aforementioned Ledbetter Act was the first bill he signed into law upon taking office.
The GOP is afraid. They should be.
They’re hoping that those women who need to learn the dignity of work don’t also discover the empowerment of the voting booth.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.